THE KING OF SHAMPOO Jheri Redding's latest company is aiming at beauty salons.
By - John Paul Newport Jr.

(FORTUNE Magazine) – WEARING A WHITE lab jacket and standing conspicuously near a microscope, Jheri Redding, 78, peers out sternly from advertisements hawking the ''botanically fortified'' shampoos and ''polymeric tridimensional'' conditioners that Nexxus Products Co., his six-year-old firm, sells. On TV commercials he strides purposefully through hairstyling salons delivering much the same message. But present in all the ads is a surprising tag line: Nexxus products are available only in salons. Why advertise nationally for products not sold in stores? Nexxus's strategy is to stir up a previously quiet backwater in the huge cosmetics industry, and so far it seems to be working. Though Nexxus is family owned and won't release figures, FORTUNE estimates the company is solidly profitable on revenues of nearly $75 million, up from $8 million in 1980. One Nexxus distributor expects his sales, $3 million in 1984, to climb 50% in 1985. Selling shampoo to and through salons is hardly new, especially to Jheri Redding. Before Nexxus, he helped found four other companies to serve that market, starting in the 1930s. Though he no longer owns any of them, two remain major factors in the business. Redken Laboratories is the industry leader (1984 sales: $101 million). Jhirmack Enterprises, now part of the Playtex division of Beatrice Cos., has become a mass-market retailer. But Redding claims the salon retail market is far from saturated. Sales in 1984 totaled $929 million, including products like cosmetics and blow-dryers. A survey by Modern Salon, an industry journal, found that in shops that sell shampoo (81% of the total), retailing accounts for an average of 6.5% of total revenues. Redding thinks the figures could easily be 15% to 20% with the help of large-scale advertising. So Nexxus is spending about $5 million a year on national and regional television spots -- plus more on magazine, newspaper, and billboard ads -- to drive shampoo buyers into salons. ''Who has more credibility pushing shampoos than stylists? A lot of our customers don't get their hair done, they just buy our products,'' says Stephen Redding, Jheri's 39-year-old son, who runs day- to-day operations. Another part of Nexxus's strategy is to grant distributors exclusive territories, a rarity in the beauty business. The company keeps distributors primed with free samples for salons, abundant product literature, and yearly meetings at company headquarters in Santa Barbara, California. Says Bob Malin, the distributor for Connecticut and southeastern New York, ''I feel like one of the family.'' More than half of Nexxus's 32 distributors carry only Nexxus products. Redding's timing couldn't be better. Baby-boomers are filling salons as never before. In the 25-to-35 age category 66% of men go to salons for haircuts instead of to barber- shops. The comparable figure for men 55 to 65 is only 13%, according to another survey by Modern Salon. But competitors have spotted the trends too. Salon chains increasingly are pushing products with their own labels. And Redken is preparing a major promotional campaign. Though some shampoos are technologically superior to others, factors like fragrance and image are probably just as important to sales. The trick is - keeping one step ahead of consumer boredom. Redding is a master. He claims credit for such hyped-up breakthroughs as pH balance, protein enrichment, and with Nexxus, polymers and ''fortified botanicals'' -- lemongrass and grapefruit, among others. The name Nexxus comes from a Greek word meaning to be joined together; the company says its products ''unite nature and earth with science.'' But these days Redding works ''only when the spirit moves,'' splitting his time between Santa Barbara and a house in Hawaii. For Nexxus, a company that Redding started partly as ''a gift to the family,'' the key question is what happens when the inventive old man is gone.